It was a clash of generations in Melbourne. One was a 35-year-old who has cemented his reputation as one of the greatest. The other is on the path to greatness. Rafael Nadal vs Daniil Medvedev was a clash for the ages at the Rod Laver Arena. When Nadal was down by two sets, it seemed that Medvedev would finally break the hold of the Big Three in Melbourne. Novak Djokovic’s ban meant that someone apart from the Serb and Roger Federer since 2015, there would be a new winner.
For Nadal, who has been beaten twice in epic five-setters by both Federer and Djokovic, it seemed that his chance of history would be denied. But, over the years, Rafael Nadal has had a particular trait in him. It is the never-say-give-up attitude. Rafael Nadal has shown throughout his years that whatever be the situation, no one can pin him down for a long period of time. Medvedev might have thought that the game was in his pocket. But, Nadal, in a supreme show of fitness and experience turned the tables on the Russian.
In a final lasting over five hours, it was Nadal who came out on top to cement history. He won the Australia Open after 13 years. More importantly, it was his 21st Grand Slam title and he now stands ahead of Federer and Djokovic. The greatness debate has now gone up by several factors.
When Novak Djokovic won the French Open for the second time in 2021, he had probably sealed the debate when it came to the greatest player of all-time debate. Novak Djokovic, after all, had become the first player in the history of the Open Era to win all four Grand Slam titles two times or more. Perhaps, no one can ever take that feat away from him.
But, Nadal’s win at Melbourne has tilted the balance in favor of the Spaniard. The reason is simple on paper. Nadal has 21 Grand Slams and is level with Djokovic for the feat of winning all four Grand Slams twice. But, Nadal has won the Olympic gold in both singles and doubles. That is a feat that neither Federer or Djokovic have ever achieved. Federer might never be able to achieve it. Djokovic will have to wait four years for this to happen.
Nadal has already won the singles and doubles gold in the 2008 and 2016 Olympics. Thus, technically, Nadal has achieved everything that needs to be achieved in the world of Tennis. However, there is only one box that has not been ticked and that is the year-ending ATP Finals. Nadal has never won that title. If he does that in 2022, then the great debate will be sealed in Nadal’s favor.
Perhaps, Rafael Nadal’s less controversial demeanor might make him much more alluring to the fans. The fiasco on Djokovic’s COVID-19 vaccination and the reactions have not made him popular. The fact that Djokovic has been in controversy during the coronavirus situation has slightly dimmed his stature. Federer, on the other hand, remains the gold standard but he has often played second fiddle to Nadal and Djokovic.
Federer’s time is probably up and he might be stuck on 20. For Nadal and Djokovic, the situation is only going to get intense from here on. If Djokovic wins more Grand Slams, potentially 25 and Nadal does not win any, then Djokovic might seal the greatness debate. To put it in perspective, Nadal is four Grand Slam wins away from becoming the leading Grand Slam winner in the history of the sport. If he wins the French Open again, then he will be level with Steffi Graf with 22 Grand Slam titles.
The King apparently lost his crown at Roland Garros in 2021 when Djokovic joined the triumvirate. Now, Nadal has spectacularly stolen Djokovic’s mantle in Melbourne. If he wins in the French Open again, then Nadal will forever be remembered as the G.O.A.T.